Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Local Power Politics: APS, AZCC and Things to Think About...Continued

No, this isn't turning into a political blog, although, it would be fun, but this relates directly to my continuing annoyance with my power company Arizona Public Service. I have a few previous posts about how poorly (in my opinion) it's run and how they are using the power of the dollars we pay in rate fees to control local politics and raise rates. In the last post about this <link> I specifically mentioned a particular rate increase that is being contested right now. I'll leave the long description of that item to the reader; simply check out the link I just left you.

What I want to recap here is one particular item that is turning out to be fun. Briefly, an APS customer, Stacey Champion, is petitioning to have the latest rate increase revisited. She contends, and I agree with her, that APS dealt improperly in their presentation of data and impact of the rate increase. A lot of people are behind her in this effort, and two individuals have joined directly in the proceedings to help out and also get some of their own particular opinions aired.

Naturally, this is becoming an interesting problem for the members of our regulatory commission, Arizona Corporation Commission. Basically, the AZCC is the equivalent of a Public Utility Commission in other states. They have commissioners that vote to control rate increases and act in the public's behalf. Many contend that APS owns some of the commissioners, and it's hard to deny when millions of dollars have been spent by APS on political campaigns locally.

So, this particular 'Docket' is a hot button right now since some of the commissioners are up for reelection in November.
Now, to the fun part. One of the commissioners Tom Forese sent a note to the people handling the Docket asking for the inclusion of 'Staff':

Dear Commissioners and Interested Parties,
I would like to request that Staff participate in the matter of Stacey Champion, et al vs. Arizona Public Service. Staff was a party to the rate case, and Staffs [sic] participation will assist me in making my final decision. 
I would like Staff to respond by close of business June 29, 2018.
My first question was who is this 'Staff' person? Is there a Joe Staff that works there or what? Well, it turns out that 'Staff' is the commission's legal staff. Forese is actually trying to inject more lawyers into the mess. These lawyers are the same ones that worked on the previous Docket that is being contested right now.
'Staff' replied with another note:

Because this proceeding has been underway since mid-February 2018, Staff respectfully requests that a procedural conference be scheduled at the earliest possible date to discuss Staffs participation in this case and to consider this proposed procedural schedule to accommodate Staffs involvement 

I only quoted the last paragraph because the rest of it is legalese, and you can see it all by following the link above. Below this is a strawman schedule that is proposed so the lawyers can get all their poop in one sock and not look like a bunch of dweebs.

Notice that the lawyers ask for a conference. In this case it means that a judge presides, and all the folk directly involved have to attend and have their lawyers there. It's really a hearing; you know how lawyers love a hearing. The administrative judge involved, Jane L. Rodda called for a conference (hearing) to be held on July 11th to discuss this and other matters.

OK, this sounds a little weird on the surface. The commissioners have not attended any of the hearings so far, and have had little obvious involvement. This has been between normal folk and APS's plethora of lawyers. Now, one of the commissioners, actually the chairman of the commission, wants to inject lawyers to tell him what is going on. Initially, I wondered, "Why hasn't he been following this already?"

Turns out that I wasn't the only one wondering this. Warren Woodward, one of the normal folk that is also directly involved in this with Stacey Champion filed a letter contesting 'Staff' involvement. This is the really fun part and I'm going to include most of it below:

Warren Woodward, Intervenor in this proceeding, strongly objects to the suggestion put forth by Staff on June 29, 2018, that a procedural conference be scheduled in this case to discuss Staffs participation in this case. 
1) This matter can be handled on paper. There is no need to waste the Parties' time at a conference.  
2) The time to apply for intervention passed on May ll, 2018. Staff missed the boat.  
3) By virtue of signing the APS rate case Settlement Agreement, Staff is biased in favor of the rate hike established in ACC Decision 76295, and Staff cannot be expected 1 to be impartial in this case. To wit, Section 40.6 of the Settlement Agreement:  
  • The Signing Parties shall make reasonable and good faith efforts necessary to obtain a Commission order approving this Agreement. The Signing Parties shall support and defend this Agreement before the Commission. Subject to subsection 40.5, if the Commission adopts an order approving all material terms of the Agreement, the Signing Parties will support and defend the Commission's order before any court or regulatory agency in which it may be at issue. 
4) If commissioner Forese, who suggested Staffs involvement in order to assist his decision making, wants to better understand the issues in this case, then he can read the docket, including all the APS customer complaints, both in this docket and in docket E-01345A-16-0036. There is also nothing stopping commissioner Forese from sitting in at the hearing and paying attention, something he neglected to do during the APS rate case in which these unjust and unreasonable rates (that are the subject of this proceeding and for which Forese voted) were spawn.  
5) In light of all the foregoing, there is really nothing to discuss. Staffs request for a procedural conference, and Staffs intervention in this case, should be denied.

Is this AWESOME or what? Woodward stepped up and actually said what should have been said:

This herd of lawyers has not been paying attention to this because it seemingly wasn't important, therefore they want to extend the schedule of the hearings and actions. Probably past the election so it doesn't interfere with the sitting commissioners campaign for reelection.

That the herd also cannot be neutral, or even in favor of the public's interest because they signed off on the rate increase and promised not only to not object, but also to "support and defend" it. Including them will add lawyers that are required to support APS in this matter.

The Chairman of the Commission himself isn't tracking it and doesn't want to go to the effort of catching up so he wants the lawyers to do it for him.

I'm going to add something to this that wasn't directly mentioned. More lawyers means that the normal folk that are trying to get this reheard will have to spend more money answering the new lawyer's questions. More time will mean more expense and delays so this falls further behind in people's minds. We all know that more lawyers always cost more money, and APS doesn't care at all. They are guaranteed a reasonable profit by the regulating body regardless of how badly they run their business.

One other thing, how could a section like 40.5 quoted by Woodward above ever have been signed? The parties to this 'settlement' were the solar industry, other power companies and such. My Lord, it also included Walmart and Sun City for crying out loud. There's a paragraph in there that says they will defend it?


And it's really there. I found it on page 31 about half way down the page <link>. If you want to see all the documents and interactions look here <link>, but it's really, really boring.

OMG!, do we have the best regulatory body that money can buy or what?

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